Margaret and Dick   


Day two: Tardets to Luz-St Sauveur


Distance:  127 km (78 mi)

Total climbing:  ~2,990 m (~9,730 ft)

Resting heart rate (a.m.):  63 (bad news)

Calories burned:  4,043

Livestock report:  cows, sheep, horses, ponies, goats grazing free around col d'Aubisque; hawks

Roadkill report:  one UFO (I don't recognize the little mammals here)

Local specialties:  sheep cheese, honey, and a cake cooked on a spit that cost eight euros at the col d'Aubisque -- a fortune, but hey, it was the first edible thing I encountered

The cols:  Marie-Blanque, Aubisque, and Soulor (the picture below shows only Marie-Blanque and Aubisque; Soulor, not pictured, is a small shoulder on the right side of Aubisque)


Today's ride included two category-one climbs, Marie-Blanque and Aubisque.  (A category-one climb is the hardest climb that a sane person would undertake.  We'll talk about beyond-category climbs tomorrow.)

The day started with some innocuous rolling hills and then turned to the monster col de Marie-Blanque.  On any significant col, there is a sign at the bottom with the profile of the climb.  Then at each kilometer you have a sign reminding you how many km you still have to climb and giving the average slope for the next km.  Marie-Blanque is a short climb of 10km (~6 mi), but the slopes for the final four km are 11%, 9.5%, 13%, and 12%.  Mind you, anything over 8% is enough to command your full attention.  There was simply no respite:  on slopes that steep, you can't stop because you'd be unlikely to be able to start up again.  Cyclists who have seen the movie "The Triplettes of Belleville" will know the contortions we went through to get up that climb.

My fantasy when beginning the col d'Aubisque was that I would later report that it was a piece of cake after Marie-Blanque.  Alas, non!  It stretched about 18 km (~11 mi) and would occasionally tip up to 16% or so.  I dug deep to climb it, using every mental game available.  The climb was made a bit easier by the fact that it's the most beautiful col I've ever climbed.


And tomorrow is supposed to be our hard day!

At the beginning of a trek like this, you need to be certain that your muscle glycogen is topped off.  Lacking intravenous saline and glucose that racers can receive at the end of the day, however, it's just not possible to replenish all the glycogen stores before the next morning.  There are many things you can do to better your chances:

  •   Spare your muscles whenever possible.  Use a low gear to spin your pedals quickly, thereby using your aerobic energy instead of your anaerobic muscle energy.  Yesterday, for example, was a good day for spinning.
  •   Keep eating and drinking all day, well before you're hungry or thirsty.  Eating becomes a chore!
  •   Eat plenty of fast carbohydrates with some protein in liquid or easily-digested form as soon as possible after getting off the bike.  I'm finding that nougat candy is something I can still tolerate after a day of sweet stuff.
  •   Avoid alcohol.  Tough, given the great ambiance at the dinner table.
  •   Avoid fats, which slow digestion of the carbohydrates.  Also tough, since since the cheeses are so wonderful.  (We're making sure Neil has access to lots of cheese.  He loves it, and we're hoping it slows him down.)

I really need some muscle glycogen to get up the col du Tourmalet tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

About the resting heart rate.  It's likely to rise as the week goes on, indicating incomplete recovery.  I picked up another good tip recently (from about enhancing muscle recovery:  drink whey protein (branch-chain amino acids) before bed, to aid in rebuilding muscle.  I'm guzzling the stuff.

(Pyrenees day one)   (Pyrenees day three)